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Public Confidence in Institutions Still Low: Analyst

Lao Monghay, a former researcher of the Asian Human Rights Commission and independent analyst.

Despite government efforts over the last 18 years, Cambodian institutions have struggled to gain the public’s confidence and implement constitutional rights and freedoms, an independent analyst says.

Lao Monghay, a former researcher of the Asian Human Rights Commission, told “Hello VOA” on Thursday that people’s right to assembly and other freedoms have been curtailed in recent years.

New laws have made it harder for large groups to amass, and the government even has a designated protest site, Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, he said.

“Obviously there are still difficulties in the use of rights, rights and freedoms,” he said, speaking as a monthly guest on the show.

New institutions at the local and national level need to work harder to instill these rights, which will bring more public confidence, he said.

“This confidence will strengthen the state institutions, [and bring] more legitimacy,” he said. “And also they will receive more cooperation from people.”

Such institutions include the municipal or provincial councils, district councils, National Assembly, Human Rights Committee, and others, he said.

Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rights envoy to Cambodia, told VOA Khmer recently that these institutions must work independently, in a balance of power that would be beneficial to the country.

“That’s my focus,” he said recently. “The members of parliament should have the power.”

There has been progress, he said, but peace and prosperity must also come with democracy and rule of law.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the government is working to change the “mindset of the civil servants” to provide better services to Cambodians.

“We start by making laws,” he said. “Not laws to command, but laws to give benefits and protection to people, including public order in the economic and social sectors and other public services. That is our direction.”

Lao Monghay said he supports reform plans, but they are not being implemented.

“The National Assembly does not do the work of checks and balance, or review the enforcement of laws,” he said.

Many decisions are still arbitrary, from an excessive fine for traffic regulations to the go-ahead on a development project at Beoung Kak lake that has turned into a longstanding land dispute, he said.

“A public spirit should be instilled at the administrative school,” he said. A woman who goes to the commune council office with a newborn should, for example, get a birth certificate quickly. “Leading by serving,” he said.